This….is not as much on my mind now as it was a couple months ago, but just the same I’ve been carrying this post around in my brain for too long to just forget it. So I’ll type it up anyway.
For a while the story of the Prodigal Son was coming to mind. I imagine most of you know it, but you can go here if you need to review it. I’ll wait. As it was coming to mind, two things struck me:
The first thing was the shoes. The son comes home, starving and tired and smelling of pig slops, and his father immediately orders the servants to put shoes on him, along with a robe and a ring and hopefully a bath later on. The first time shoes are mentioned in the Bible is when Moses meets God at the burning bush, and God tells him to take off his shoes, because he is on holy ground. Moses was permitted to approach God, but he clearly did not belong there. The lost son, however, was given shoes, because this was his home, and where he belonged. Even though he’d demanded that his father sell a third of his land and then spent the proceeds on strippers and cocaine, he was welcomed home. His father didn’t even listen to his apology. That image of grace has been sticking in my head.
The other thing that stuck was the elder brother’s reproach to his father: “I have been a dutiful and responsible son all along, and you never even gave me a lamb so I could celebrate with my friends….” That accusation doesn’t make sense. A father as generous as this one (seriously, what was he thinking to hand over the younger son’s inheritance like that?) would never have refused to throw his son a decent birthday party. The only conclusion that makes sense is that the older brother never asked for a party, maybe even acted offended if some treat was offered. I assumed it was passivity, but my study group friends pointed out that he may have been proud of not being like his brother, even envisioning himself as a martyr. At any rate, he never asked, and then resented what was given to his brother. And I find I don’t want to become resentful because I talk myself out of wanting things, a habit I rather got into from being the oldest of five children. Obviously one can take it too far in the other direction, but I’m hoping to find a balance.